Donny Osmond's talents, appeal cross generations

Updated 8/26/2014 2:20 PM
  • Donny Osmond will play seven shows at Aurora's Paramount Theatre with his sister Marie.

    Donny Osmond will play seven shows at Aurora's Paramount Theatre with his sister Marie.

  • Donny and Marie Osmond bring their tour to Aurora's Paramount Theatre.

    Donny and Marie Osmond bring their tour to Aurora's Paramount Theatre. Courtesy of Paramount Theatre

  • Donny Osmond made the Chicago area home while starring in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" -- and even sang the National Anthem before the start of the White Sox season home opener against the Boston Red Sox in 1994 at what was then Comiskey Park.

    Donny Osmond made the Chicago area home while starring in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" -- and even sang the National Anthem before the start of the White Sox season home opener against the Boston Red Sox in 1994 at what was then Comiskey Park. Associated Press

If Donny Osmond's life had zigged instead of zagged, perhaps he and his family would have settled in Naperville.

He considered it back in the 1990s when his long Chicago run in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" had him searching the suburbs for homes. He chose Wilmette instead. And though he eventually returned to Utah, he's played Chicago and the suburbs several times in recent years.

Now, he and his sister Marie are bringing their popular Las Vegas show to Aurora's Paramount Theatre for seven shows from Wednesday, Aug. 27, through Sunday, Aug. 31.

First, a confession: When an editor asked if I would interview Donny Osmond, the 10-year-old girl inside me let out a squeal. After all, back in the '70s, Donny was the Justin Bieber of his time -- minus the bad behavior.

He charted hit singles, played to sold-out audiences with his brothers and hosted a television variety show at the age of 18 with Marie. After more than 50 years in show business, Donny has shown true staying power and is preparing to release "The Soundtrack of My Life," his 60th album -- a milestone few artists reach.

In addition to his busy performance schedule, the 56-year-old is a family man. He and his wife Debbie, married 36 years, have five sons and six grandchildren.

In a wide-ranging phone interview, Donny talked about his music, his legacy and what it's like to share the stage with a sibling:

Q. You lived in the Chicago suburbs during "Joseph." What do you like most about the Chicago area and the people here?

A. Definitely not the winters. I've got such great memories living on the North Shore. The people were great. I love the culture, there's just so much to do in Chicago. I miss it. As a matter of fact, I was going to move out to Naperville, but I decided on the North Shore because the commute on the freeway system was a little bit easier downtown … I was planning on that being my anchor, my hometown. But, my wife and I decided to go back to the mountains in Utah.

Q. Around the time you were doing "Joseph," you suffered from stage fright. Do you still get that?

A. No, thank goodness that's done with. You know, this whole thing with Robin Williams; it's just so important to take care of your mental health. And, having gone through that whole situation that I did, and a lot of it was done in Chicago, I'm glad I was able to seek out professional help and overcome that horrible time in my life.

Q. Talking about "Joseph," have you ever thought about doing another Broadway show?

A. Most definitely. As soon as I'm done with the Donny and Marie show in Vegas. We had no idea, it was going to go that long … yet here we are six years later. But, there's definitely ideas and plans to get back to Broadway.

Q. Working with a sibling has to be challenging at times.

A. Yes, that's for sure.

Q. What do you like the most about working with Marie? And, what bugs you the most about her?

A. What do I like? Well, first of all we've been doing this for so long that she's definitely a professional and I can trust working alongside her, whatever happens on the stage, because you know anomalies take place, so you have to improvise every once in a while. It's nice to know the partner up there onstage knows what she's doing and you can trust her. And, the banter back and forth, it's just so organic.

Q. OK, flip side, what bugs you the most about her?

A. Everything. (laughing)

Q. It seems like your projects are getting more and more personal … Have you thought about what sort of legacy you want to leave?

A. When you've been in the business for so long, you have to reinvent yourself. You're constantly doing new things to reinvent yourself. So, my legacy is going to be so wide and varied -- you know, television, radio, film, Broadway. It depends on the generation you're talking about. A lot of people remember me from "The Andy Williams Show." Some people remember me from "Puppy Love" days. Some people remember me from "Joseph." Some people remember me from winning "Dancing with the Stars." So, who are you talking about? So, my legacy will be … ahh, you might have to write a book for my epitaph.

Q. On your upcoming album, you got to work with Stevie Wonder, whom, I understand, you've admired for a really long time. Are there other artists you have in mind that you would like to work with?

A. I'd love to do a song with John Legend. I think John Legend is an amazing singer. Sam Smith, I love his stuff lately. A duet with Adele would be kind of cool. I see what Tony Bennett is doing with Lady Gaga. I think that's in the cards one of these days, I don't know if with Lady Gaga, maybe somebody else. Or even with Lady Gaga, she's amazingly talented. Maybe do a dance number with Beyoncé. Come on, I did win "Dancing with the Stars."

Q. You're a tech geek. You even have your own app. What is currently your favorite tech gadget?

A. Well, I switched from iPhone to Android … I'm an Android geek. I can actually run my Vegas show from my Android. I've got computers all over the place, at home, in Vegas, on the road, and I can remotely connect to anything. They're all networked together. Everything is connected to the Cloud. As a matter of fact, this last album was done in a very high-tech way, all the tracks were cut in Sheffield, England, and vocals were done in Vegas and in Utah; it was all coordinated through Dropbox; and, again, on my smartphone.

Q. Do you have trouble disconnecting from all the electronics?

A. No, not at all. It's all about balance. I'm very … I know this sounds egotistic … but I'm a very organized person. You've got to be in this business, and yet be a family man. So, I stay in touch with all my kids and my grandkids via Snapchat and Facebook and Twitter. And I stay in touch with fans as well that way.

Q. You mentioned your family. Boys run in your family, but you have one granddaughter. Does she get special attention from you and your wife?

A. Oh yeah. She's the princess and she knows it.

Q. I asked some friends and readers to give me some questions for you. So, I have a bunch of quick questions to ask you. Do you still have your purple socks?

A. No

Q: Have you seen the musical "The Book of Mormon"?

A. No, I haven't.

Q. Do you want to see it?

A. No, I don't really have a desire to, to be honest with you.

Q. What did being on "Dancing with the Stars" teach you?

A. I learned that there are muscles that I never even knew I had. I learned what pain is really all about. And I know what dancing on a broken toe and broken ribs feel like. I also know what it feels like … well, how do I put this? … I know what it feels like to hold the trophy and Marie doesn't. (laughs)

Q. Now, are you adding songs from your album into the show you're doing with Marie now, or is that coming later?

A. That's going to come later, as soon as the album's released.

Q. What is still on your bucket list both personally and professionally?

A. It's interesting because my bucket list was to do this album. So, I'm fulfilling my bucket list and I'm right at the cusp of creating the next goal for my bucket list … This 60th album and the concept of this album has been on my bucket list for so many years and I'm just accomplishing this. You're going to have to call me in a year and ask me that question again.

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